Friday, September 2, 2011

The Summer Of 1914

Historians have long maintained that before August 1914 Canadians largely remained innocent or perhaps not interested in events in Europe. I thought that I would have a look at the London newspapers to see if this was true. The answer is - yep.

It is really two or three days before England’s declaration of war that either the “London Free Press” or the “London Advertiser” gave front page coverage to the unfolding of events in Europe. So what interested Londoners in July 1914.

The biggest stories were about the tragic events surrounding the sinking of the liner (May 1914) "The Empress of Ireland" in the St. Laurence river. It had everything - tragedy, loss of life, and scandal. Londoners had been on the liner, and it was a rare day that names of those who survived, and those who did not (funerals get front page coverage) , appeared in the papers. A titillating scandal was reported when it was found that a Mrs. Charles Cheu had fled from her marriage, and boarded the liner as Amelia Mott. She was not one of those who survived.

There was a provincial election in the offing. “The Advertiser” was convinced that with this election the Liberals would reign supreme, and Temperance would finally be enacted in Ontario. Take that you barroom loafers! “The Free Press” was cool to that idea.

What was not cool was the weather. In June temperatures reached 94.5 degrees F. Stories advising people on how to keep themselves cool ran in both papers for several weeks. That included advice (for women of course) on the proper maintanence of the refigerator (read ice box).
Keeping cool in Victoria Park, "The London Adversiser", June 9, 1914.
The Ringling Brothers’ Circus was in town. There was a procession down Dundas St. of wagons containing lions, panthers, leopards, and of course the elephants.
“Keep back, Mickey, or they’ll getcha,” shouted a small child. “Naw, day won’t nudder, if je ain’t got no tobacy widja,” was the scornful reply (an attempt at humour by the Advertiser).

Another attempt at humour by the Adversiser cartoonist. "The London Adversiser", June 15, 1914.
For women the colours of choice for the summer were black and yellow.
"The London Adversiser", June 12, 1914.
All topped off with a stylish cape. No mention of how that would fly in 94 F. degree weather. Perhaps a feathered white hat would help ? Apparently it goes with anything.
"The London Adversiser", June 14, 1814.
No mention of what was to come in August. Armageddon !

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